The New Life of Brian
For the first time since he opened Odeon with his brother Keith in 1980, Brian McNally doesn’t have a New York restaurant to call his own. Eight months ago, Mr. McNally quietly signed over the lease of 44 at the Royalton Hotel–once the power-lunch spot for the publishing set–to the hotel’s owner, Ian Schrager. Even though the lease had four and a half years left on it, sources close to the situation told The Transom that Mr. Schrager had been eager to regain control over the restaurant for some time. The power crowd had long since moved on, especially since the opening of the new Condé Nast building’s titanium-walled café.
Mr. McNally said that Jeffrey Chodorow, who is partners with Mr. Schrager on the food and bar businesses in his hotels, will take over and that 44 will likely become the New York branch of Spoon, a joint venture with French chef Alain Ducasse. He also said that the entire Royalton may be slated for a facelift.
“It’s sort of weird, not having a place,” the 50-ish Mr. McNally said. “Now I realize that the only reason that I had any social life at all was because I had a restaurant. Nobody calls now, you know what I mean? In order to have a bloody social life again, I’ve got to open a new restaurant.”
For a while, it seemed like Mr. McNally–whose previous glories have included 150 Wooster–had traded up from restaurateur to hotelier status, but now even that appears to be changing. Back in 1997, Mr. McNally announced that he was opening two hotels in Miami and New York with Philip Pilevsky, a political science professor who made his fortune as a real estate trader. Mr. McNally’s decision to jump into a hotel bed with Mr. Pilevsky certainly must have complicated the restaurateur’s relationship with Mr. Schrager. Mr. Pilevsky had formerly been Mr. Schrager’s partner in building the Morgans, Paramount, and Royalton hotels, but the relationship reportedly did not end on a cordial note. Mr. Pilevsky was not invited to develop the Delano hotel in Miami with Mr. Schrager, and Mr. McNally did not last too long running the Delano’s Blue Door restaurant. So, in what was perceived in media and real estate circles to be a $100 million pissing contest, Mr. Pilevsky and Mr. McNally unveiled the plans for the Shore Club hotel, to go up a block and a half away from the Delano. They also announced plans to develop a boutique hotel on Bryant Park, close to the Royalton. Not surprisingly, the announcement that Messrs. McNally and Pilevsky were doing business together was followed by much speculation that Mr. McNally would not be long for Mr. Schrager’s operation. Mr. McNally’s presence as both a competitive developer and Royalton tenant reportedly infuriated Mr. Schrager.
Now maybe Mr. Schrager and Mr. McNally can finally be chums again. Mr. McNally seems to be edging out of his partnership with Mr. Pilevsky. Mr. McNally, according to sources, is a bit fed up with construction delays that have kept both hotels closed and is trying to distance himself as much as possible from the projects, seeing them as both a major drain on his time and, ultimately, not as lucrative as he once thought. Mr. McNally did allow that he “didn’t expect it to take this long.”
When the pair announced the Miami hotel in 1997, they claimed it would be open the following year. Now, three years later, Mr. Pilevsky claims that the Shore Club will be open in the next 60 to 90 days. Sources familiar with the construction claim that the end of March is more realistic.
Mr. Pilevsky denied that he and Mr. McNally were going through any sort of divorce. “We did change our previous arrangement so it was better for both of us,” he told The Transom. “I don’t want to get into details.” Mr. Pilevsky confirmed that Mr. McNally has given up his financial stake in the two properties and is now on retainer as a consultant.
Mr. McNally, whose consulting gig with Mr. Pilevsky will last a minimum of two years according to one source, said that his current plan involves “basking around in the Mediterranean doing nothing.” He said that he also plans to open another restaurant in Manhattan. “No big huge deal,” he said. “Just somewhere where I can hang out and dispense booze.”
When Is A Spade Not A Spade?
Carla Gahr said that she nearly threw up when she strolled into the Jack Spade boutique on Greene Street last August and saw a little orange book called Honesty perched on one of the shelves. “I thought, ‘This looks just like my little orange book!'” said Ms. Gahr, a 36-year-old photographer who lives in Chelsea.
Ms. Gahr alleged that the design of her book was ripped off by her acquaintance Andy Spade, the former copywriter who opened the Jack Spade boutique in December.
Mr. Spade is the lesser-known business partner and president of the obscenely successful Kate Spade handbag empire, which he and his future wife Kate Brosnahan started in 1993. Last year, Neiman Marcus bought 56 percent of the company for a reported $33.6 million. Mr. Spade also happens to be the brother of acerbic Just Shoot Me imp David Spade.
Ms. Gahr made Mr. Spade’s acquaintance in the early 90’s, when he was the creative director for the advertising agency Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners and she was dropping off her photography portfolio for the agency’s consideration. Ms. Gahr never got any work from the agency, but in the summer of 1999, after she had incorporated some artsy New York street-scene photos she had shot into a small handmade orange book, she called Mr. Spade, who by that point was the creative director of Kate Spade.
Ms. Gahr thought that perhaps Mr. Spade might like to sell her books in the Spade store on consignment. “Oh, Carla, it’s beautiful,” she remembered Mr. Spade telling her when she met with him at his hair salon to drop off the book. “Let me see what I can do for you.” She didn’t hear anything from him after that.
Last spring, Ms. Gahr says she bumped into Mr. Spade on the street again and gave him two similar books she’d created, The Kind and Next of Kin . She said she told him that she had managed to convince the Paul Smith boutique and the Gotham Book Mart to sell her books for $20. Again, according to Ms. Gahr, Mr. Spade told her he’d see what he could do, but never called.
On July 31, Ms. Gahr opened the New York Post and grimaced at an article titled “On The Wallet Watch–’Honesty’ Not Big Apple’s Policy,” about a sociological experiment of Mr. Spade’s in which he dropped 100 Jack Spade wallets on the ground and a photographer secretly took pictures of those who picked them up. To Ms. Gahr’s horror, the Post reported that Mr. Spade had compiled the photographs and results of the experiment into “an orange-covered booklet” being sold under the title of Honesty , which was exclusively for sale at Jack Spade for $9.
Honesty and Sweet People (the title of Ms. Gahr’s book) have a striking number of similarities: identical dimensions (four-and-a-half by six-and-a-half inches), orange covers that wrap around the book with two-inch overflaps, and plaintive titles like Honesty ‘s “Woman on Rollerblades” and Sweet People’ s “Woman with Yams.” Both feature similar mundane human subjects shot on the streets of New York. Mr. Spade’s book, though, features text and larger photos which are reproduced as part of the book’s pages. Ms. Gahr’s photographs are small laser reproductions ensconced in antique-style photo corners.
“To be honest with you, I do see similarities between some of the things she did in terms of paper stock, but conceptually, [ Sweet People ] had nothing to do with [ Honesty ],” Mr. Spade told The Transom. Mr. Spade said that Kate Spade has long used construction paper for business cards and company stationery, and that Jack Spade, since its inception in 1997, has put the color orange in heavy rotation in its products.
Mr. Spade added that a designer named Walker MacWilliam, who was not familiar with Sweet People , did the design. “I liked her books very much,” Mr. Spade said. “But they’re a completely different subject matter … I’d really feel terrible if she felt that way.”
Ms. Gahr said that she does feel pretty crummy, but added: “I’m not the litigious type.”
White Light, Veiled Heat
On the evening of Sept. 25, if you had wanted to find Manhattan’s highest per-square-foot concentration of lifts, nips, tucks and pancaked faces, you’d have had to go no further than the New York Friars Club on East 55th Street. The masses had arrived to attend the opening reception of the art show In Search of the White Light , featuring the work of the glamorous, self-described “artist, healer and gardener,” Brenda Kravitz.
The slender, 67-year-old Ms. Kravitz greeted guests in the dark-wood-paneled Milton Berle Room. A couple of her enormous paintings of white lilies served as a backdrop. She wore a low-cut, floor-length black lace and sequin dress that she designed, long beaded earrings, dark lipstick and heavy lashes that were partially obscured by a black veil which tumbling from a silk flower in her red hair.
“I’m a certified Reiki practitioner and I belong to a healing group,” said Ms. Kravitz. “I feel very strongly that white light has healing qualities. When I’m out there working with lilies, I kind of feel it’s an empowering thing. Gardening is a very strong part of what I do,” she went on. “It’s a godly occupation.”
Makeup is also a very strong part of what Ms. Kravitz does, and she offered that “when people comment on the way I dress, I say, ‘You think I only know how to decorate canvases; why not me?'” She laughed. “I haven’t had my face done, if you want to know that,” offered Ms. Kravitz, whose complexion put The Transom’s far younger one to shame. Then she could resist no longer. She reached out and clutched The Transom’s hand to spread her gift of Reiki. “Really. Healing. Healing, my friend. Healing and exercise and organic food and so forth,” she said.
Meanwhile, the soirée grew to fraternity-party proportions. “Did the kids get trampled?” someone yelled. Some trays of non-organic-looking pigs-in-a-blanket went round, and plumes of cigar smoke swirled about the gold drapes and Gucci glasses.
One elderly spitfire with painted eyebrows confided: “See, when you’re young, you don’t care about beauty. When you get old, you want beauty!” Then she craned her neck to get an eyeful of Pamela Anderson’s studmuffin Marcus Schenkenberg, who was milling demurely on the other side of the room.
– Beth Broome
The Transom Also Hears …
… Save for maybe GQ editor Art Cooper, Talk magazine co-founder Tina Brown is about the last person anyone in the media world could expect to see whizzing through France on a Trek 20-speed. So The Transom was skeptical when we heard that Ms. Brown took part in Disney chief executive Michael Eisner’s annual four-day bike trip to the Dordogne. But sacre bleu , she is true! Ms. Brown returned our call to tell us that, indeed, she had ridden the metal beast for four days straight with no mishaps.
Did she train beforehand? “I was planning to, but then I heard from [former Ralph Lauren president] Hamilton South that [former New York City Ballet dancer] Heather Watts didn’t even get on a bicycle. I decided it was okay not to bother … The only thing I did was a heavy shopping excursion to Ralph Lauren.”
Writer Fran Lebowitz was there, too. “She turned out to be a real ace biker, Fran,” Ms. Brown said. “Much better than advertised.” And what about Mr. Eisner? Did he pop open a can of whup-ass on the hills? “Eisner was in a very relaxed mood,” Ms. Brown said, adding, “I’ll tell you the real ace biker there was [USA Networks chairman] Barry [Diller]. Barry was the champ.”